Life at the beach can be summed up as warm weather, the bustle of crowds, easy living, and the lapping of the waves. But what happens when the allure of a vacation at a beach resort is met with facing the realities of our world today? This aspect considers the global pandemic, global economy, and finally, the climate crisis threatening our planet. The Last Resort: A Chronicle of Paradise, Profit, and Peril at the Beach by Sarah Stodola examines these topics in beach resorts worldwide.
Stodola examines the history behind people flocking to beaches through her travel anecdotes, journalism, and historical references to them in literature. The book stands as a corrective and a warning of the paradise destinations that have bred economic and social inequalities.
An acclaimed journalist, Stodola did not grow up with an affinity for the beach. However, as she began to work in travel journalism, she decided she wanted to cover destinations without the “always-sunny disposition” the work entailed. Thus, the story begins with Stodola examining her trip to Thailand with a more serious lens.
Stodola does a remarkable job leading the reader through various destinations, including the beaches of Railay, Thailand, Fiji, Monte Carlo, and even the quintessential Jersey Shore. Stodola would have been remiss had she not included a writeup of the nation’s oldest seaside resort.
Cape May first rose to popularity in the early 19th century as a place for the denizens of Philadelphia and New York City to get a break from harsh city air. Stodola writes with great aplomb about the “Big House” boardinghouse, which later became Congress Hall. The fires that destroyed so many historic properties do not go without mention. The chapter featuring Cape May continues with Stodola disclosing to the reader her own time here, enjoying all the aspects of the well-known Victorian architecture.
The Last Resort offers potential options for more sustainable tourism, an outstanding effort that readers can take away from this book and continue to mull over for the future. ■